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Things, things, things. I spent a long weekend helping my mom move out of her house and, as she would say, “I never realized I had so many things!”
Those cute custard cups that have never been used, that teapot I brought back from the summer I was an exchange student in Tunisia, those vinyl records when no one in our family has a record player anymore, pictures of relatives that nobody knows anymore. Why have we saved these things for so long?
I hear myself echoing thoughts about the futility of material possessions (especially after packing too many boxes and feeling it in my back). “Watch out,” Jesus said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions.” At least we’re giving all those books to the library and tons of kitchen stuff to a settlement house. The Salvation Army (bless them) is coming at the end of the week, and in a big family, everybody’s got something to treasure. But why did we keep it all in the first place? And will someone just have to pack it up again in another dozen years?
“I’ll clean out this cupboard that has all the old slides and home movies,” I told Mom.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear,” she said, looking over my shoulder. It’s not like she’s particularly covetous. She’s been a good steward. But all these Super 8 movies when nobody has a Super 8 projector and carousels of slides in a digital share-it-on-Facebook era? “Is there anything I should save?” I wondered.
My fingers dusty, my glasses sliding down my nose from reading too much small type, I suddenly stopped. A label on a film in my grandfather’s neat engineer hand: “Ricky’s birth.” And then another one: “Ricky at home.” It’s not like I was the first grandchild—not by a long shot—but there is his excitement at capturing a moment.
In this imperfect world, things aren’t everything. Not even close. They need to be kept in perspective. But in them and through them we can show our love. Will I get that old film transferred to DVD? Maybe. Or maybe it’ll get passed down another generation. But for the moment, surrounded by boxes and packing tape, I could see proof—if I’d ever needed a reminder—that I was welcomed and much loved.
“Lord,” I thought, “how blessed I am and was.” Then I packed the film canister in a new box and put it on the pile of boxes. Next time someone might throw it away. I didn’t have the heart.